Were we to plot on graph paper the sum dental health of humanity, we would find ourselves carving a bulbing arc, a Molar Mountain.
At the front foothills of this orthodontic Alp dwell the dental dead-losses, the odontophobes. The ones who never even made it to base camp. A rotten, head-clutching mass of groaning tramps and espresso-swigging, chain-smoking literary hacks, hacking gobs of yellow phlegm through yellow tombstones. These are the children that Denplan left behind.
Follow the little red lane up to the peak of this Canine Kilimanjaro and we find, in various degrees of agony, the moderate majority. The brushers, pickers, occasional flossers, getting by on chewing gum and the drill. Here we feel safe. This is the territory we know. The red wine stain and the antidote dose of Pearl Drops. The tepid promises of toothpaste ads, where the blue stripe does one thing and the red another.
But let us leave the safety of this hilltop and begin our descent, down the enamel Everest. The Other Side. Few have trodden these paths. This is the land of the Californian Smile. This is the Great American Beam. These are the toothy Hilarys; their Sherpas are superstar surgeons: dental deconstructionists and reconstructionists. This is the world of ‘Have a nice day’, of the breast implant and the Extreme Makeover, the automatic motel and the pneumatic blonde. Uniform rows of identical pegs gleam in robot grins that say “I belong here. You do not.” Hide your English inadequacy behind a curling lip and your mother tongue. Here every man is a movie star. Every woman is a Stepford Divorcee. It chills the sensitive soul and sears the sensitive tooth.
Gape on in despair at the artifice of perfection. Open wide and say ‘Aaaaaaaah’.